Plastic may also be chosen over glass because it is less expensive. For that glass industry, it has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices have gotten to increase. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass can be reused. And although more than the buying price of a comparable plastic item, the price of a reusable glass item is diminished with each use. “Convenience has a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use expense is typically higher to get a disposable in comparison to a reusable product, even after figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies are finding a distinct segment in the region of specialty glass. Scientists for whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) is not available can change to specialty Crucible making use of their ideas for laboratory glassware. Cal-Glass’s Cheatley recalls once being inspired to make glass hearts–not components of jewelry, but true replicas of human hearts where medical researchers could practice placing catheters.
Bellco also provides specialty glass items. Sometimes, says Nicoll, items which are specially designed just for one scientist come out to possess universal appeal and make their way into Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “it seems that when specialty markets grow to some certain level on an item, somebody comes along and definitely makes the item from plastic.” Most of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers from the pharmaceutical industry and so are proprietary.
Cheatley wants new markets to conquer your competition due to plastics and automation. The business recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system called the EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. Even though the stills are targeted primarily for usage in the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects these people to prove useful in biological labs as an alternative for evaporators. Unlike standard evaporators, the EcoStill, an enclosed system, is not going to produce fumes, says Cheatley. And, he adds, the glass EcoStill is impervious on the chemicals that may damage standard stainless steel photochemical processors.
But sometimes glass just can’t perform the job. By way of example, “you can’t squeeze glass,” says Bel-Art’s Nunziata, whose company’s product line includes safety labeled squeeze bottles. Also, jugs and bottles for storage are frequently created from plastic as they are quicker to handle.
In recent years, plastics happen to be developed with many of the properties in which glass is valued. For instance, polymethylpentene is certainly a clear plastic with optical qualities nearly equivalent to glass. Polymethylpentene is also autoclavable, which is utilized for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and lots of other items traditionally created from glass. Another clear plastic resistant to high temperatures is polycarbonate. Bel-Art markets a polycarbonate vacuum desiccator, used to remove moisture coming from a sample. A plastic desiccator has several positive aspects on the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate v . p . of the company. Glass desiccators must be quite heavy to avoid implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate might be taken as a result of a total vacuum without danger of implosion, and won’t crack or chip if it is dropped. The plastic desiccator is far less expensive than glass, McClure adds.
Plastic wasn’t always created to supplant glass, however. About 40 years ago, the first product of Rochester, N.Y.-based Nalge Co. was really a plastic pipette jar. Nalge’s founder, Emanuel Goldberg, had been a manufacturer’s representative selling pipettes, and a lot of of his customers complained that when they dropped their glass pipettes to the stainless steel storage jar, the tips broke.
A chemist by training, Goldberg welded plastic bottoms to lengths of plastic pipe. “So, ironically, the initial plastic product which Nalge made was built in order to avoid glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the company developed a great deal of goods that were designed because glass products were breaking. We developed a line of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled significantly after the original glass benchware which was available commercially.” Today, about 25 percent of Nalge’s plastic items are disposable; the others are designed to be reusable.
The demand for Pipette in the life science market has grown during the last decade, in accordance with Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics have been built to be inert than glass, preventing cells from staying on the surface. Concurrently, plastic surfaces can be treated to ensure cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly compared to they would on glass. “You can kind of pick and choose the options from the various kinds of plastic resins in order to satisfy different demands in the life science lab, where glass lacks the flexibleness,” says Hamnett.
And plastic technology is continuing to evolve, allowing manufacturers to help make products for specific needs that supply advantages over glass and over other sorts of plastic. Nalge has a collection of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers which can be used for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The business is additionally tinkering with exposing an increased-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to produce a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, causing a surface that includes a chemical resistance similar to Teflon’s, but is less expensive. Nalge even offers just introduced a disposable bottle made the exact same material as plastic soda pop bottles–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). “PET is really a resin which has gas barrier properties which can be crucial in cell biology, where media should be held in a container which will minimize CO2 exchange,” says Hamnett.
But even as plastic displaces glass, new lab procedures along with a growing conservation ethic are cutting into the use of both materials. Automation and improved analytical instrumentation–often requiring very small samples–have reduced the requirement for laboratory glassware, as outlined by LaGrotte. “In past times, a scientist or possibly a technician would do lots of things manually, using different kinds of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are many instruments that you simply feed samples to, and they do all the analysis or mixing or whatever would have been completed by hand.”
While both glassware and Skeleton model now manufacture items, like small sample vials, specifically for automated use, Hamnett states that the decline in the amount of glassware used for classic wet chemistry continues to be so excellent that the rise in automation-related items has not been enough to balance it out. Although glassware and plasticware items are available today within both reusable and disposable forms, Stanley Pine, professor of chemistry at California 36dexnpky University, L . A ., advocates reusing even disposable items. “I’m seeking to teach everybody which we don’t reside in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “Lots of this plastic items that used to be regarded as disposable probably ought to be cleaned and reused.”
“Cheap” accustomed to mean “disposable,” Pine says. While a reusable glass pipette might cost $10, a pipette built to be disposable–created from thinner glass, with calibrations that are painted on rather than etched in–might sell for just $1. The producer would believe that it’s cheaper to discard the disposable items than it is to manage them and wash them, he explains. “But a lot of us within the academic labs have found many of the items that is made being disposable is really very good,” Pine says. “It can be used, by way of example, in a lot of our undergraduate classes. Even though it doesn’t last for two decades, it may possibly go on for 5yrs, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”